Eddie Lockjaw Davis / Johnny Griffin Quintet
Tough Tenors Again 'n' Again
CD | Promising Music | 0602537004362 | PM 441182 | 09-12
“Not the most publicised, but one of the most productive” - that's how Mike Hennessey puts it in his liner notes for this CD when he comes to describe the partnership of Eddie Davis and Johnny Griffin. Their original teaming-up dates back to 1960, when they discussed the idea of forming a group at Birdland. With Norman Simmons (p), Victor Sproles (b) and Ben Savannah (dr) their first quintet (which underwent some reshuffles later) started working the very same year and would release six recordings until 1962.
This is all the more astonishing as the two personalities of the “Tough Tenors” were considerably different: Eddie was said to be a conscientious man, a worker who knew about his obligations, whereas Johnny rather lived for the day and was a notorious latecomer. After that short, but most prolific period, their quintet disbanded, “Lockjaw” returned to the Count Basie Big Band for which he had been working since 1952, Griffin tried his luck in the Paris jazz scene. However, having been separated for a couple of years, another opportunity for a musical pairing of Eddie and Johnny arose at the beginning of the Seventies.
Davis was playing with the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band at that time and had already recorded the “Sax No End” album for SABA which was to become MPS. Since then it was producer's Gigi Campi's dream to bring Griffin to the band to ignite a reunion of the unequal sax wizards. In April 1970 Campi grouped the two of them together in Cologne and decided not to record the whole big band as a backing, but to go back to the proven quintet line-up which now consisted of Francy Boland (p), Jimmy Woode (b) and Kenny Clarke (dr).
The result of the Comet Studios sessions in the metropole on the Rhine river are compelling for every tenor lover as Davis & Griffin tie in with their Prestige legacy easily. The infectious groove of the opening “Again 'N' Again” with the double lead line marks a breathtaking prelude. In the epic “Tin Tin Deo” some darker – and very manly - moods are displayed, adding an exciting new perspective to the version divulged by Dizzy Gillespie. You may also notice Francy Boland's inspired rolls in the middle section.
The first surprise comes in shape of “If I Had You”, when Davis withdraws to a languishing late-night ballad in Ben Webster style. “Jim Dawg” is a brilliantly swinging classic written by “Lockjaw” himself – and a great chance for the listener to study the different styles of improvisation of Eddie and Johnny, as he can do in “Gigi” which delivers a bit more raucous undertone. Anyway, the biggest revelation to the audience could be the second ballad of this album: With “When We Were One”, Johnny Griffin, the wild man, unexpectedly shows his well-hidden romantic trait.